ABA Midyear Meeting

DOJ should consider whether new charging policy is likely to achieve justice, ABA House says

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In accordance with the ABA’s long-standing support for prosecutorial discretion and sentencing reform, Resolution 108C asks the Department of Justice to reconsider the guidelines laid out in a May 2017 memorandum issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors.

In that memorandum, Sessions directed that “prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and advocated for charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. Any federal prosecutor who did not feel it was appropriate to seek the maximum possible charge would have to go to a U.S. attorney or assistant attorney general for approval.

Resolution 108C was overwhelmingly approved Monday at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, and recommends that all prosecuting authorities use charging policies consistent with the ABA Standards on the Prosecution Function, which were last revised in 2015 and assess each case individually, taking into account a defendant’s criminal history and culpability in the crime. The resolution also urges that prosecuting authorities prohibit the use of enhanced charges just intended to induce a guilty plea.

Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University Law School rose to speak in favor of the resolution, and said that the ABA was making the request with appropriate humility, rather than attempting to dictate to the Department of Justice.

“We care about a discussion, we care about a dialogue, and we care about all of us being dedicated to trying to get it right,” Saltzburg said.

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